Summary: In our times of despair, we are like David and ask "How long, O Lord, how long!"
First Baptist Church
July 15, 2001
How Long, O Lord?
Have you ever been in a bad situation, everything seemed to be mounting up against you and you wondered how long will this last? Maybe it was an illness, maybe it was a loved one who was dying, maybe a career that was being cut short against your will, it could be a child that was too strong willed. It doesn’t matter what it was, but the cry was the same, "How long, O Lord, How long!"
Psalm 13 records the pleas of a Bible hero. King David is in hiding and he cries out to God, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" Four times David cries out "how long." Those are powerful words from a man who had a relationship with God that we would all desire. Yet, David struggled with experiencing God’s presence during many of his difficult times. You’ve been there haven’t you? We all have. We try to make sense out of our tough times, and no sense seems to come. In fact, all we come up with is silence. Some say silence is golden, but let me tell you, when the silence seems to come from God, it is anything but golden. To put it bluntly, it feels like life is about to end.
You see, it’s not that David was beginning to doubt the existence of God. He knew God existed. But he felt that his cries bounced off a closed door, that his heavenly Father had turned His back on him. It seemed as if the relationship between David and God had clouded over, and he was left alone, surrounded by darkness.
Understand that you’re not the first one to experience this - you’re not a terrible heathen; you’re not crazy. Scripture is filled with the cries of people who go through times like this. In Psalm 42, the psalmist wrote, "Why have you forgotten me?" And in 44:24, "Awake, O Lord why do you sleep! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face?"
We know many other famous Bible characters who have suffered. Elijah wanted to die and Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet because he cried so often.
Ezekiel endured the death of his wife during his ministry. Daniel was torn from his home as a young boy and led captive to Babylon.
Hosea suffered patiently through a heartbreaking marriage. Amos faced lies and scorn throughout his ministry.
And all we have to do is mention the name Job, and we know a man who cried out to God in his despair. Godly men who have suffered and questioned God.
I had a class this week with a man who is so excited about God. He cannot believe what God is doing in his life and how he has been privileged to help others. Yet, this same man wrote in one of his books that as a child he could "have lived, died, and gone to hell, without anyone even bothering to care" (Iron Sharpens Iron, page 14). He has endured the deaths of two of his children and at 75 years old does not ask how long, but humbly says thank you God for an abundant and beautiful life.
You see, sometimes when we are in those dark periods of life we don’t believe there is a way out. And in those times the devil tries to deceive us into believing that’s the truth -- that, in spite of Jesus’ great sacrifice, God has abandoned us. Satan fills our mind with thoughts that God’s with everyone else, but us. But that is not true, God is with us, as well as everyone else.
So David cries, "How long?" How long must I wrestle with my thoughts? How long will my enemy triumph over me? How long must I wallow in the muck and mire of confused emotions and thoughts? No matter how hard David struggles and tries, he cannot come up with a plan of escape.
Have you felt them? The thoughts which try to convince you that God no longer loves you, that you deserve your atrocious fate, that He must be punishing you for something? Been there?
You’re emotionally bankrupt, with no reserves?
You feel as if you cannot do anything anymore.
You’re barely limping along, and can see no way out.
David knew that feeling, and in the midst of it he calls out - "Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death...." We don’t know the immediate circumstances, but we do know that much of the stress in David’s life came from people who were out to kill him. Perhaps the threat to his life was very literal. Perhaps it was figurative: the despair had grown to the point that David would have been quite happy to see the end of life, or he felt as if he were dead already - dead inside - walking dead, no energy, no drive, no action. Just a damp, cold existence.